GEMS 2019: Miami’s Fall Jewel + Staff Picks

GEMS 2019, the Miami Film Festival’s (MFF) fall showcase, will run from October 10th – 13th, 2019 at the Tower Theater Miami. GEMS was introduced in 2014 to extend MFF’s curatorial work to give South Florida access and to spotlight important fall releases. This year, audiences can view works by auteurs like Celine Sciamma, Bong Joon-Ho, Noah Baumbach, and François Ozon. GEMS will also highlight new voices, styles, and trends through filmmakers like Neus Ballus, Chinonye Chukwu, Alma Har’el, Carlo Mirabella-Davis and Ladj Ly.

Opening Night and Closing Night
The festival is set to kick off on opening night with legendary filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar’s highly anticipated Dolor y Gloría (Pain and Glory). The Tower Theater will be transformed into a gallery featuring Almodóvar’s classic film posters, images in vignettes and a post-screening gala party sponsored by Estrella Damm. Guests will enjoy the Estrella Damm photo station, offerings by master chef Ferran Adrià, fine wines at the Marqués de Riscal station, and a Spanish churro dessert station. As Spain’s official entry for the 2020 Academy Awards, this is a film you don’t want to miss.

South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-Ho will close out the festival with Parasite, a class satire that combines the genres of comedy, drama and thriller. Winner of the Palme D’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, Parasite has been described by GEMS as “the most unique and unforgettable film of the year.”

Four Days of Variety
The festival’s short four-day program includes a variety of film selections sure to interest any moviegoer. Alfre Woodard, in what’s said to be the greatest performance of her career, plays a prison warden in Clemency, a character study looking into the toll capital punishment has on people. Directed by Nigerian-American filmmaker Chinonye Chukwu, Clemency is her second feature length film and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Honey Boy is a semi-autobiographical drama inspired by Shia LaBeouf’s life as a child actor. LaBeouf wrote the screenplay and stars as his abusive father in the film. Director Alma Har’el makes her narrative feature debut in this Sundance hit that focuses on the potency of memories.

MFF’s Emmanuel Genao shared some special events our FIU panthers might enjoy. The Spanish film STAFF ONLY will feature a Q&A session with lead actress Elena Andrade covering themes of cultural appropriation, political correctness, sexual exploitation and power imbalance. Miami Herald senior editor Nancy Ancrum will give introductory remarks on Letter to the Editor, a documentary on the importance of a free press in today’s broken media landscape. The documentary is dedicated to Miami Herald journalist Julie Brown. Following up on his Oscar nominated Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda returns with The Truth, his first feature outside of Japan. The festival will include a tribute to Chinese-American author Ken Liu for his sci-fi short story “Memories of my Mother,” which inspired Kore-eda. Before the screening, the festival will show a real-world short film realization of the same story by American filmmaker David Gaddie creating a one-of-a-kind experience.

Whether you consider yourself a film lover or not, GEMS 2019 is chance to view new major works, festival winners, and enjoy Miami’s vibrant and active film scene. The question remains… one theater, 4 days, and 18 films to choose from, what will you see?

Staff Picks:  “What are you most looking forward to?”

Dr. Strycharski: Of course Parasite is a must see, but what I’m really looking forward to is Swallow, not least because of the critics panel to follow. I love the intimacy of GEMS, and the lobby conversations with critics and other film enthusiasts is half the fun. I’ve also been warned that Marriage Story is emotionally devastating, so of course that’s high on my list.

Valerie: It’s so difficult to narrow down what I’m most excited to see but Portrait of a Lady on Fire’s dreamy and surrealist trailer is enough to convince me to put it at the top of my list. I’m also very excited about The Truth because who doesn’t love turbulent parent-child relationships?

Julia: As a lover of documentaries, Letter to the Editor is on top of my list. In addition to Clemency, which won the top prize at Sundance, missing it is not an option. Overall, I’m most excited of enjoying multiple films in one day – an elevated binge-watching session.

Francisco: Go watch Motherless Brooklyn if you’re a fan of talents such as Ed Norton, Michael Kenneth Williams, and Willem Dafoe. Similarly you should also catch Honey Boy, Shia Labeouf’s semi-biographical film.

Farah: As a lover of hybrids in all media, how can I resist Parasite? Plus, having representation in the festival from non-Americans and a POC is a matter of principle, but also, Joon-ho is so talented. Clemency is the next must see because Alfre Woodard (‘nough said).

Frankie: Honey Boy is one film I’ve been anticipating since it was first confirmed. I grew up watching Shia act, so seeing him write and direct his own autobiography is both really cool and nostalgic. Also, Parasite — the title invokes so many connotations on its own. That alone was enough to add it to my list.

Tickets for GEMS 2019 are currently on sale at Opening Night tickets are at Rush – meaning tickets will be sold on a first come first serve basis 15 minutes before starting on location. In addition to General Admission, there are Military/Veteran, Student, and Senior discounted tickets.

Julia Burgos, an English major pursuing the Film Studies Certificate, is hopeful she’ll complete her senior year with minimal sleep deprivation.